Betting

Well, for my final £20 I was looking for a broader bet on seat numbers, vote share, or a majority. But most of these wagers seem to be pretty poor value, particularly given the uncertainty in this race.

So to crush the Pickard “tortoise”, I’ve picked out a few seats again based on conversations with some campaigners.

The first is a Tory win in Feltham & Heston. Alan Keen has had a rough time over expenses and he’s facing a two-pronged assault from the Tories and Lib Dems. The Tories are doing pretty well on the ground and the Lib Dem rise could actually work in their favour by splitting the Labour vote. I’ve put £10 down at 13/8 with Paddy Power. 

Somewhere in Lib Dem HQ is a top secret target list. These aren’t the seats Nick Clegg visits; it’s an underground movement behind enemy lines. Not even Clegg will know the full battleplan. When Chris Rennard was leading campaigns, it was said that “the leader could never be trusted enough to see the canvas returns”. That probably still holds true.

Sadly I’ve failed in a long quest to uncover the list, but I’ve been given a few hints. The odds on Lib Dem wins have shortened considerably of late and I was waiting for a better moment to put down some money. But I’ve waited long enough. It’s time to take the gamble.

The strategy, if you can call it that, is to lay £5 on a eight seats that the Lib Dems have an outside chance of winning. They are split into four categories: 

After selecting a couple of outsiders, I’ve gone for a safer bet on low turnout.

The received wisdom is that this is a close election with big stakes that is re-engaging voters. Some commentators think turnout could even rise from what is a very low base of 61 to over 70 per cent, which is much closer to the historic average.

But from the limited time I’ve spent speaking to voters in marginals, this doesn’t ring true. None of the parties have really captured the public imagination in the way Tony Blair did in 1997, and even then turnout was only 71 per cent.

Labour voters are clearly fed up with Gordon Brown. Those unable to bring themselves to vote against Labour will just stay at home. As Matthew Taylor notes, Labour activists are worried about low turnout. The Gillian Duffy incident will not have soothed their concerns. In addition, young voters have been flocking to the Lib Dems, but that age group has a poor track record of actually voting. 

For my second political bet of the campaign I’m heading to Cardiff again, a place which could will emerge as the first major city in England and Wales with no Labour MP.

My first bet was on the outside chance of the Lib Dems taking Cardiff South (40-1). The Lib Dems are safe in Cardiff Central and Labour are seen as a spent force in much of the city,  so the Lib Dems are concentrating their resources on a big upset in the South. 

A Financial Times experiment will begin today. The FT accountants have had their fingers prised off the company purse strings so that Jim and I can start betting on the election.

We’ll both have a kitty of £100 to pit our wits against one another and the bookies of Britain. 

There was a big move overnight against the Tories in the betting markets. A hung parliament is now the most likely outcome of the election, according to punters on Betfair, the online betting exchange. The odds at midday on Saturday are:

Tory Majority — 6/5 — 46 per cent probability 

A unanimous consensus is always something to be wary of, particularly when it doesn’t quite reflect the evidence available.

So when eight of Britain’s top pollsters all predict a Conservative majority — in spite of current polls indicating there’s a strong chance of a hung parliament — it is worth unpacking their hunch.

Given all the uncertainties in this election campaign, why do all eight forecasts fit in a range of about 40 seats? Is there something they know that we don’t?